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2i4                           THE GAY GENIUS

"Let us go to the capital," said the friends to one another. "The firm
of Luan are the biggest gold dealer of the country. If we pass their
tests, then we really have the right formula." They took ten ounces
of this stuff to the firm and offered to sell it. The firm examined,
weighed, and heated the stuff and paid them the price for real gold.
The friends were very happy and congratulated one another on theil

"Now we can become immortals," they said, "or if we are not will-
ing to forsake the world, we can use this money to drink and eat and
enjoy a good life. Let's make a hundred ounces and divide it among

That night they had a big wine dinner and got a little drunk, and
went to sleep leaving the "copper ore" in the furnace. During the
night, the "liquid copper" splashed about and set fire to the house. The
fire brigade arrived when the three friends were still asleep, drunk. "I
was comparatively awake and ran through the flames and escaped from
the house. Afraid of arrest, and being a good swimmer, I jumped into
the Pien River and swam down the current. Only when I had passed
the National Gate did I dare to come ashore. While in the water, I
repented and promised God that I would become a monk and would
never do it again. I would never again try to make gold for my own
benefit, but when some temple wanted to raise funds, I would do it and
ask God's permission first." That was why the priest said he could not (
possibly reveal the secret formula to others, but that he would gladly
produce a hundred ounces if it were for some good cause. Of his two:
friends, one was burned to death and the other was arrested and dietf
of wounds a few days afterwards.                                                  **

Su Tungpo was interested particularly in various preparations from
mercuric sulphide. He was extremely cautious at testing these because
it was recognised that mercury was poisonous. As they were shrouded
in the mystery of secret formulas, one was never quite sure what the
contents of the mercury preparations were. A contemporary recorded a"
man's death from swallowing a mercury compound when he made
good an offer to take it in the Emperor's presence; probably he took
mercuric chloride instead of mercurous chloride. In addition, the
Taoists also- experimented with other chemicals such as saltpetre,
sulphur, and even limestone taken from stalactites; they sometiEpjfij
"grew ulcers in consequence". Su Tungpo himself took two
kinds of food that were supposed to be the food of the fairies: namely,,
Indian bread ("tukahoe") and sesame. That sesame is rich in oils and
contains a certain amount of protein gives it some food value, but I am
inclined to think that these were considered "food for the fairies" chiefly
because the Taoist priests living on the top of mountains often could
jnot find anything else to eat. The more a plant grew in remote pkces